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Tennessee reports at least 756 coronavirus cases at schools

NASHVILLE, Tenn. —Tennessee reported on Wednesday that 756 students and staff have tested positive for the coronavirus at schools across the state, with more than half the districts reporting.

Data on cases across all districts was supposed to be released Tuesday but was delayed because of technical difficulties, according to the Tennessee Department of Education. Officials now hope to have full reporting from all districts by Sept. 22. The cases reported Wednesday include 514 students and 242 staff.

The state had initially waffled on whether it would release the data at all, with officials saying they were concerned about student privacy. Then last week, Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn announced a dashboard that would provide information about COVID-19 cases at both the district level and individual school level.

To address privacy concerns, schools with fewer than 50 students will not be included on the dashboard. Schools reporting fewer than five positive students or employees will be listed as having active cases but without specific numbers.

Also Wednesday, the Tennessee Department of Correction released the results of targeted coronavirus testing at Tennessee’s state-run prisons. As of mid-afternoon, the state was reporting 408 positive cases across 12 facilities with 142 tests still pending. The women’s prison, now called the Debra K. Johnson Rehabilitation Center, had the highest number of cases of any state-run facility with 149.

The targeted testing covered inmates who were determined to have come in contact with another person who tested positive and inmates who were recently outside the facility for a work assignment or medical appointment.

Privately run South Central Correctional Facility in Wayne County was reporting 1,161 cases Wednesday after testing all inmates recently. Those cases helped propel the county to number 10 in the nation for highest per capita caseload, according to data compiled by The Associated Press. Wayne has a population of 16,649 with 1,489 confirmed cases, including those in the CoreCivic-run prison.

The highest per capita caseload in the U.S. on Wednesday was in Trousdale County, where an earlier outbreak at the CoreCivic-run Trousdale Turner Correctional Center was continuing its spread in the greater community. With a population of just 9,573, the county was reporting 1,629 cases of COVID-19. None of those were at the prison.

Trousdale and two other CoreCivic-run prisons are carrying out the same targeted testing that was done at the state-run prisons over the past several days. Correction spokesperson Dorinda Carter said in an email said the results from those three facilities are pending.

Tennessee overall had the 7th highest per capita rate of cases among all U.S. states Wednesday, according to Associated Press data. The state reported 833 new cases Wednesday and 35 new deaths, bringing the total number of deaths from COVID-19 in the state to 1,931.

While most people who contract the coronavirus recover after suffering only mild to moderate symptoms, it can be deadly for older people and those with existing health problems.

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